Xinjiang Travel Guide
Xinjiang is in the northwestern parts of China and in the past was located on the Silk Route that connected the kingdom and its affiliates with Central Asia.
A cauldron of mixed races, large ethnic influences, and one of the most fascinating terrains, makes this very large province of China one of the few places in the world that remains pristine and so very ethereal in its beauty. It has a fascinating cultural fabric, an awe-inspiring geographical expanse, and is a destination like no other in China.
Surrounded by Tibet, India, Pakistan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Russia, and Afghanistan, makes it perhaps the only province in China that has such a diverse number of neighbors along its international borders. What must always be clear to all travelers coming here is that the place is not just diverse in what it offers but also so that a travel plan with a good number of days is imperative.
There are mountains, deserts, lakes, and ancient villages, ruins, and modern new cities all within this large geographical area that houses some of the most spectacular sights in China.
Any travel plan apart from delineating the number of days one wishes to spend must also consider the budget and the members in the group one is traveling with. Xinjiang despite having held on to the label of ‘remote’ for very long has in fact opened up in a big way to tourism which in turn has made it the mainstay of its economy along with oil and other natural resources.
Connected by flights-one can get connecting flights from Urumqi Diwopu International airport located about 20 km from the capital city of Urumqi, to Beijing and Shanghai. By train, the journey is rather long -43 hours from Beijing and Shanghai which makes the air route far more feasible.
Time to Travel
The most avoidable season in winters as it can get truly rough and harsh with sub-zero temperatures. The weather is far better in the summer months though the lowest basin in the world at Turpan can get miserably hot in the daytime. So, summers which is the best time to travel will allow a lot of activity, and being a dry place there is no fear of rainy spells spoiling your plans.
Preferred months for travel are thus considered from April to October. However, for the newly opened ski resorts developed by an American luxury resort consortium, the best time of course would be winters.
Xinjiang Treasures –A must for all travelers
Many who have traveled to this area have suggested a minimum of 7 to 10 days to comfortably travel as see so as to do justice to this places’ astounding beauty and diversity. The top attractions and the time allocation needed for each have been provided for easy reference.
- Of course, the travel is to begin from Urumqui, the capital of this province and home of the famous Uyghur food and the symbol of modernity in this vast land which perhaps is one of the best-preserved in terms of old cultures and its history.
The places of interest within include the famous Xinjiang Museum that not only is home of the finest artifacts from the Silk Route region but also mummies that were discovered in the Tarim Basin. Calligraphy specimens, as well as scrolls and travelogues of ancient travelers, have been well preserved here. It’s a must-see to absorb the historical richness of this place.
Also worth a visit is the Er Dao Qiao-for some authentic local shops and artifacts made by local artisans as well as the most authentic Uyghur food. Do visit the international Bazaar as well. The Uyghurs are the ethnic majority who are of Turkish descent and speak their dialect. One can also visit the Xinjiang Silk Road Museum on Shengli Road.
While this may take you in all a day to explore-do keep one more day spare in case the two museums take up more time or you happen to want to spend more time in the evening bazaars that can be quite captivating with all the tribal fare on display.
- Special hiking expeditions too could be organized from Urumqui to Heavenly Lake near Bogda mountain. There is another grass-covered pasture most suitable for hiking just two hours from Urumqui-pleasant pine forest and green meadows make it ideal for camping and trekking in one of the most uncluttered and safe environs.
- For those making a trip in winters what better than Tian Shan, the major ski resort of the region, and the trip to see the glacier that feeds the river Urumqui.
- Turpan( 2 days)About 150 km from Urumqui, this should take you about two hours to drive down, and as you set off the topography changes. While the morning is spent just reaching Turpan –you will end up right in the heart of the busy bazaar if you take a bus or taxi and can have your lunch made up of local fare. The afternoon can be spent exploring the Emin Minaret and the Jiaohe Ruins that are located a few kilometers from town.
Stay the night at Turpan and the next day you could explore Flaming Mountains, Gaochang Ancient City, the Buddhist caves, and Tuyoq valley. This would entail traveling the entire day. Head back to your accommodation and spend the second night here at Turpan that has a number of comfortable hotels and hostels.
- Kashghar Move from Turpan to the next destination Kashghar-that could take 20 hours by train but if you go back to Urumqui and take a flight it will only save you a couple of hours and will be too much trouble. So head by train to Kashghar and spend the day enjoying the splendid views while on the journey. You would walk the entire day seeing the old town, the Apak Khoja Mausoleum, and the Id Gah Mosque-the largest mosque in China.
- Alternate Plan-For those not wanting to venture as far as Kashghar can plan for a trek to South Pasture which is just two hours from Urumqui- and add another day by taking a trip from Turpan to the ancient ruins of Jiaohe and Gaochang.
Options for Stay
If Urumqui is the base then there are regular stays available-both hotels and hostels and most of the guides speak fairly good English as do the hotel staff. Great food and local fare must be tried for their unique taste which is mostly dairy-based and with loads of dried nuts and fruits. The local fare also consists of fresh vegetables and hand-pulled noodles which is a must-try.
Tip For Travelers
Book your travel in advance and create your itinerary making sure the agency makes all arrangements in advance. Also at all times the local news and advisory must be followed in great detail. It is also advised that one carries travel documents while sightseeing, as well as the names of places where you will be staying in the local language or your destination in the local language just in case you need to ask for directions.